What meetings do you hold?What documents or artifacts do you use?What rituals do you observe?Are you interested in this question?How do your teams work?Can you describe their methods?Did you prescribe their methods?Can you describe their rituals and artifacts?How do Americans work?
Is the number of times per hour we check our email at work
Is the percentage of American workers who say their jobs are “very” or “extremely” stressful
Is the percentage of the US population affected by insomnia
Is the number of prescriptions written for sleeping pills every year in the US
Is the average amount of time lost each day by the average worker in the US to interruptions and distractions
Is the percentage of American workers who don’t think of their jobs as fun
Is the percentage of workers who call in sick when they are not.Whose fault is this
White-collar work suffers from:Poor or absent project governanceToo many unproductive meetingsToo much work spread too thinlyPoor or no prioritizationMicromanagement through relentless checkpointsMagical thinking managers when it comes to the constraints of time, resources and scopeManagement surprise and anger when the fourth constraint – quality – is violated and abusedConstant team disruptions, interruptions, redirections and recompositionsWe’ve sped up bad practices: enterprise 2.0 is the same as Enterprise 1.0, only twice as frantic
Actually,what practices?Where do we find stable, repeatable methods of performing white-collar work?We have no practices.We make it up as we go along.
Two successful patterns to consider: Toyota Production SystemAgile Development Methods
Let’s go first to a post-war Japan which is trying to figure out how to become competitive in the globalizing automobile industry by seeking new understandings about how the shop floor should workWhat do we find we decompose the parts of the Toyota Production System that emerged from this period of intense innovation in 1950s Nagoya?Demand pull“Atokoteiwaokyakusama”: The next person in the process is the customerJust in timeEliminate wasteLow inventory = sense of urgencyContinuous improvement, by trying things outOne piece flowAn obsession with quality, built in. If there is a problem with quality, stop production and fix it.But what does it all add up to?
Let’s go now to the first few years of this century, and to a group of disgruntled software developers who came together in America to agree on an agile manifesto – a new set of principles to guide the practice of software development. This manifesto formed the basis for the development of formalized agile methods, like scrum and XP. What do we find when we decompose the elements of these agile methods?Simple, but highly defined rituals and artifactsDedicated teamsCo-located teamsSelf-organizing teamsConstant improvement through iterationWork decomposed into small increments that are prioritized for business valueFrequent releaseTeam empowered to improve its own processAn obsession with quality, built in. If there is a problem with quality, stop releasing code and go fix it, or “technical debt” will accumulateBut what do they all add up to?
A culture held by the people doing the workThe people doing the work empowered - actually, entrusted - with the responsibility for improving the way they work and the quality of the outputA culture that sustains this behavior over time, underpinned by a set of values that supports itValues that put people at the center, in service of the customer
So how do you know if you have this culture?
What is the understanding your organization has about how productivity gains are achieved?
Can you say that the quality of your work is consistently high with confidence?How can you have confidence in that statement? Through what mechanism or reassurance do you have that confidence?
Really? Then why all the sleeping pills and sick days?
Do you believe that happy, motivated teams have anything to do with your ability to improve productivity?
It’s the 21st century, people. Our technologies are unbelievably powerful. We can make whatever we want happen.